I'm going to be 50 this week. Coo! Who'd have thought it? I'm chuffed to bits with myself. Here I am, back in Europe again, living happily ever after with my darling husband, while my darling son is out there making his own life - and coming to see us at Christmas (next month!) - and we're close enough to all my extended family for us all to get to know one another properly again after so many years on opposite sides of the planet. My genuine antique goblet runneth over.
Of course, there's one small wrinkle. Actually, more to the point, there are several. Just like everyone else of Advancing Years, I go merrily along, living this facinating life as I always have, and not really changing, except, one would hope, in greater wisdom, humour and compassion - absolutely darlings! - and then this woman appears, reflected in a shop window or the perspex wall of a bus shelter. She's not remarkable in any way, just a solid, rather pudding-faced middle-aged woman, like all the others I've passed in the street since I was a little girl. And it's me. How strange.
In that last year in Dubai I frequently felt a great deal older than I looked - What am I saying? When you feel like that, that's how you look too! - but these days, I look my chronological age, and feel - not younger exactly - just more...................... me. And 'me' is quite relaxed and optimistic at base, with a great deal of yabadabadoo thrown in.
They say our character shows in our face - cue comforting comments on laughter lines. But it seems to me that as gravity and biology do their work, softening some contours and nudging others into relief, so character - or perhaps, more accurately, our inner life - becomes harder to read: perhaps, as we grow older, we internalise more, and show less.
Certainly, riding on the Metro every day, I see the vivid play of thoughts and feelings on younger faces - especially children with their parents, teenagers with their friends - all eager to share, and be acknowledged - and the more closed faces of older people. Like me. Often, of course, faces are closed to preserve mental space in the physical press of a railway carriage, and the mind is elsewhere, empty, resting - or at work on some responsibility - and the closed look has as much to do with fatigue and the preservation of energy or vision as anything else.
The clues are there in the eyes, the shoulders, and the angle of the head. And in the clothes, too. Even work clothes. Little ones wear what their parents dress them in - even if they've been consulted; their parents' tastes still prevail to some extent. Teenagers often adopt peer uniform: jeans, black, the current fashion - perhaps subconsciously disguising the extraordinary surge of mental and emotional power, the overwhelming sense of 'I' that informs every waking moment as they make that transition from childhood to adult life.
By the time you're 50 - and 60 - and 70 - even if you don't have much - or any - budget for clothes, you know what you like, or what suits you; and 'suits' has a lot more to do with the mental landscape than with the more obvious physical landscape (-slide...?!). And the way you generally feel about life, and handle what comes, is there in the set of your shoulders, the curve of your spine. That's a whopping generalisation of course - completely disregarding genetics, lifestyle and health - but there's a lot of truth in it.
Anyway. We're off to the Archaeology Museum - my choice - to check out some ancient Etruscans. Like gravitating to like.....
But I can't possibly be 50 this week, because my dad is only 49¾. Has been for years.
And you can't argue with your dad, now can you?